WEIRD TALES FROM NORTHERN SEAS FROM THE DANISH OF JONAS LIE
BY R. NISBET BAIN
WITH TWELVE ILLUSTRATIONS
BY LAURENCE HOUSMAN
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Jonas Lie is sufficiently famous to need but a very few words of introduction. Ever since 1870, when he made his reputation by his first novel, "Den Fremsynte," he has been a prime favourite with the Scandinavian public, and of late years his principal romances have gone the round of Europe. He has written novels of all kinds, but he excels when he describes the wild seas of Northern Norway, and the stern and hardy race of sailors and fishers who seek their fortunes, and so often find their graves, on those dangerous waters. Such tales, for instance, as "Tremasteren Fremtid," "Lodsen og hans Hustru," "Gaa Paa!" and "Den Fremsynte" are unique of their kind, and give far truer pictures of Norwegian life and character in the rough than anything that can be found elsewhere in the literature. Indeed, Lie's skippers and mates are as superior to Kjelland's, for instance, as the peasants of Jens Tvedt (a writer, by the way, still unknown beyond his native land) are superior to the much-vaunted peasants of Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson.
But it is when Lie tells us some of the wild legends of his native province, Nordland, some of the grim tales on which he himself was brought up, so to speak, that he is perhaps most vivid and enthralling. The folk-lore of those lonely sub-arctic tracts is in keeping with the savagery of nature. We rarely, if ever, hear of friendly elves or companionable gnomes there. The supernatural beings that haunt those shores and seas are, for the most part, malignant and malefic. They seem to hate man. They love to mock his toils, and sport with his despair. In his very first romance, "Den Fremsynte," Lie relates two of these weird tales (Nos. 1 and 3 of the present selection). Another tale, in which many of the superstitious beliefs and wild imaginings of the Nordland fishermen are skilfully grouped together to form the background of a charming love-story, entitled "Finn Blood," I have borrowed from the volume of "Fortaellinger og Skildringer," published in 1872. The remaining eight stories are selected from the book "Trold," which was the event of the Christmas publishing season at Christiania in 1891. Last Christmas a second series of "Trold" came out, but it is distinctly inferior to the former one.
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I. THE FISHERMAN AND THE DRAUG
II. JACK OF SJOEHOELM AND THE GAN-FINN
III. TUG OF WAR
IV. "THE EARTH DRAWS"
V. THE CORMORANTS OF ANDVAER
VI. ISAAC AND THE PARSON OF BROENOE
VII. THE WIND-GNOME
VIII. THE HULDREFISH
IX. FINN BLOOD
X. THE HOMESTEAD WESTWARD IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
XI. "IT'S ME!"
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THE FISHERMAN AND THE DRAUG
THE FISHERMAN AND THE DRAUG
On Kvalholm, down in Helgeland, dwelt a poor fisherman, Elias by name, with his wife Karen, who had been in service at the parson's over at Alstad. They had built them a hut here, and he used to go out fishing by the day about the Lofotens.
There could be very little doubt that the lonely Kvalholm was haunted. Whenever her husband was away, Karen heard all manner of uncanny shrieks and noises, which could mean no good. One day, when she was up on the hillside, mowing grass to serve as winter fodder for their couple of sheep, she heard, quite plainly, a chattering on the strand beneath the hill, but look over she durst not.
They had a child every year, but that was no burden, for they were both thrifty, hard-working folks. When seven years had gone by, there were six children in the house; but that same autumn Elias had scraped together so much that he thought he might now venture to buy a Sexaering, and henceforward go fishing in his own boat.
One day, as he was walking along with a Kvejtepig in his hand, and thinking the matter over, he unexpectedly came upon a monstrous seal, which lay sunning itself right behind a rock on the strand, and was as much surprised to see the man as the man was to see the seal. But Elias was not slack; from the top of the rock on which he stood, he hurled the long heavy Kvejtepig right into the monster's back, just below the neck.
The seal immediately rose up on its tail right into the air as high as a boat's mast, and looked so evilly and viciously at him with its bloodshot eyes, at the same time showing its grinning teeth, that Elias thought he should have died on the spot for sheer fright. Then it plunged into the sea, and lashed the water into bloody foam behind it. Elias didn't stop to see more, but that same evening there drifted into the boat place on Kvalcreek, on which his house stood, a Kvejtepole, with the hooked iron head snapped off.
Elias thought no more about it, but in the course of the autumn he bought his Sexaering, for which he had been building a little boat-shed the whole summer.
One night as he lay awake, thinking of his new Sexaering, it occurred to him that his boat would balance better, perhaps, if he stuck an extra log of wood on each side of it. He was so absurdly fond of the boat that it was a mere pastime for him to light a lantern and go down to have a look at it.
Now as he stood looking at it there by the light of the lantern, he suddenly caught a glimpse in the corner opposite, on a coil of nets, of a face which exactly resembled the seal's. For an instant it grinned savagely at him and the light, its mouth all the time growing larger and larger; and then a big man whisked out of the door, not so quickly, however, but that Elias could catch a glimpse, by the light of the lantern, of a long iron hooked spike sticking out of his back. And now he began to put one and two together. Still he was less anxious about his life than about his boat; so he there and then sat him down in it with the lantern, and kept watch. When his wife came in the morning, she found him sleeping there, with the burnt-out lantern by his side.
One morning in January, while he was out fishing in his boat with two other men, he heard, in the dark, a voice from a skerry at the very entrance of the creek. It laughed scornfully, and said, "When it comes to a Femboering, Elias, look to thyself!"
But there was many a long year yet before it did come to that; but one autumn, when his son Bernt was sixteen, Elias knew he could manage it, so he took his whole family with him in his boat to Ranen, to exchange his Sexaering for a Femboering. The only person left at home was a little Finn girl, whom they had taken into service some few years before, and who had only lately been confirmed.
Now there was a boat, a little Femboering, for four men and a boy, that Elias just then had his eye upon—a boat which the best boat-builder in the place had finished and tarred over that very autumn. Elias had a very good notion of what a boat should be, and it seemed to him that he had never seen a Femboering so well built below the water-line. Above the water-line, indeed, it looked only middling, so that, to one of less experience than himself, the boat would have seemed rather a heavy goer than otherwise, and anything but a smart craft.
Now the boat-master knew all this just as well as Elias. He said he thought it would be the swiftest sailer in Ranen, but that Elias should have it cheap, all the same, if only he would promise one thing, and that was, to make no alteration whatever in the boat, nay, not so much as adding a fresh coat of tar. Only when Elias had expressly given his word upon it did he get the boat.
But "yon laddie" who had taught the boat-master how to build his boats so cunningly below the water-line—above the water-line he had had to use his native wits, and they were scant enough—must surely have been there beforehand, and bidden him both sell it cheaply, so that Elias might get it, and stipulate besides that the boat should not be looked at too closely. In this way it escaped the usual tarring fore and aft.
Elias now thought about sailing home, but went first into the town, provided himself and family with provisions against Christmas, and indulged in a little nip of brandy besides. Glad as he was over the day's bargain, he, and his wife too, took an extra drop in their e'en, and their son Bernt had a taste of it too.
After that they sailed off homewards in their new boat. There was no other ballast in the boat but himself, his old woman, the children, and the Christmas provisions. His son Bernt sat by the main-sheet; his wife, helped by her next eldest son, held the sail-ropes; Elias himself sat at the rudder, while the two younger brothers of twelve and fourteen were to take it in turns to bail out.
They had eight miles of sea to sail over, and when they got into the open, it was plain that the boat would be tested pretty stiffly on its first voyage. A gale was gradually blowing up, and crests of foam began to break upon the heavy sea.
And now Elias saw what sort of a boat he really had. She skipped over the waves like a sea-mew; not so much as a splash came into the boat, and he therefore calculated that he would have no need to take in all his clews against the wind, which an ordinary Femboering would have been forced to do in such weather.
Out on the sea, not very far away from him, he saw another Femboering, with a full crew, and four clews in the sail, just like his own. It lay on the same course, and he thought it rather odd that he had not noticed it before. It made as if it would race him, and when Elias perceived that, he could not for the life of him help letting out a clew again.
And now he went racing along like a dart, past capes and islands and rocks, till it seemed to Elias as if he had never had such a splendid sail before. Now, too, the boat showed itself what it really was, the best boat in Ranen.
The weather, meantime, had become worse, and they had already got a couple of dangerous seas right upon them. They broke in over the main-sheet in the forepart of the boat where Bernt sat, and sailed out again to leeward near the stern.
Since the gloom had deepened, the other boat had kept almost alongside, and they were now so close together that they could easily have pitched the baling-can from one to the other.
So they raced on, side by side, in constantly stiffer seas, till night-fall, and beyond it. The fourth clew ought now to have been taken in again, but Elias didn't want to give in, and thought he might bide a bit till they took it in in the other boat also, which they needs must do soon. Ever and anon the brandy-flask was brought out and passed round, for they had now both cold and wet to hold out against.
The sea-fire, which played on the dark billows near Elias's own boat, shone with an odd vividness in the foam round the other boat, just as if a fire-shovel was ploughing up and turning over the water. In the bright phosphorescence he could plainly make out the rope-ends on board her. He could also see distinctly the folks on board, with their sou'westers on their heads; but as their larboard side lay nearest, of course they all had their backs towards him, and were well-nigh hidden by the high heeling hull.
Suddenly a tremendous roller burst upon them. Elias had long caught a glimpse of its white crest through the darkness, right over the prow where Bernt sat. It filled the whole boat for a moment, the planks shook and trembled beneath the weight of it, and then, as the boat, which had lain half on her beam-ends, righted herself and sped on again, it streamed off behind to leeward.
While it was still upon him, he fancied he heard a hideous yell from the other boat; but when it was over, his wife, who sat by the shrouds, said, with a voice which pierced his very soul: "Good God, Elias! the sea has carried off Martha and Nils!"—their two youngest children, the first nine, the second seven years old, who had been sitting in the hold near Bernt. Elias merely answered: "Don't let go the lines, Karen, or you'll lose yet more!"
They had now to take in the fourth clew, and, when this was done, Elias found that it would be well to take in the fifth and last clew too, for the gale was ever on the increase; but, on the other hand, in order to keep the boat free of the constantly heavier seas, he dare not lessen the sail a bit more than he was absolutely obliged to do; but they found that the scrap of sail they could carry gradually grew less and less. The sea seethed so that it drove right into their faces, and Bernt and his next eldest brother Anthony, who had hitherto helped his mother with the sail-lines, had, at last, to hold in the yards, an expedient one only resorts to when the boat cannot bear even the last clew—here the fifth.
The companion boat, which had disappeared in the meantime, now suddenly ducked up alongside again, with precisely the same amount of sail as Elias's boat; but he now began to feel that he didn't quite like the look of the crew on board there. The two who stood and held in the yards (he caught a glimpse of their pale faces beneath their sou'westers) seemed to him, by the odd light of the shining foam, more like corpses than men, nor did they speak a single word.
A little way off to larboard he again caught sight of the high white back of a fresh roller coming through the dark, and he got ready betimes to receive it. The boat was laid to with its prow turned aslant towards the on-rushing wave, while the sail was made as large as possible, so as to get up speed enough to cleave the heavy sea and sail out of it again. In rushed the roller with a roar like a foss; again, for an instant, they lay on their beam ends; but, when it was over, the wife no longer sat by the sail ropes, nor did Anthony stand there any longer holding the yards—they had both gone overboard.
This time also Elias fancied he heard the same hideous yell in the air; but in the midst of it he plainly heard his wife anxiously calling him by name. All that he said when he grasped the fact that she was washed overboard, was, "In Jesus' Name!" His first and dearest wish was to follow after her, but he felt at the same time that it became him to save the rest of the freight he had on board, that is to say, Bernt and his other two sons, one twelve, the other fourteen years old, who had been baling out for a time, but had afterwards taken their places in the stern behind him.
Bernt had now to look to the yards all alone, and the other two helped as best they could. The rudder Elias durst not let slip, and he held it fast with a hand of iron, which continuous exertion had long since made insensible to feeling.
A moment afterwards the comrade boat ducked up again: it had vanished for an instant as before. Now, too, he saw more of the heavy man who sat in the stern there in the same place as himself. Out of his back, just below his sou'wester (as he turned round it showed quite plainly), projected an iron spike six inches long, which Elias had no difficulty in recognising again. And now, as he calmly thought it all over, he was quite clear about two things: one was that it was the Draug itself which was steering its half-boat close beside him, and leading him to destruction; the other was that it was written in heaven that he was to sail his last course that night. For he who sees the Draug on the sea is a doomed man. He said nothing to the others, lest they should lose heart, but in secret he commended his soul to God.
During the last hour or so he had been forced out of his proper course by the storm; the air also had become dense with snow; and Elias knew that he must wait till dawn before land could be sighted. Meanwhile he sailed along much the same as before. Now and then the boys in the stern complained that they were freezing; but, in the plight they were now in, that couldn't be helped, and, besides, Elias had something else to think about. A terrible longing for vengeance had come over him, and, but for the necessity of saving the lives of his three lads, he would have tried by a sudden turn to sink the accursed boat which kept alongside of him the whole time as if to mock him; he now understood its evil errand only too well. If the Kvejtepig could reach the Draug before, a knife or a gaff might surely do the same thing now, and he felt that he would gladly have given his life for one good grip of the being who had so mercilessly torn from him his dearest in this world and would fain have still more.
At three or four o'clock in the morning they saw coming upon them through the darkness a breaker of such a height that at first Elias thought they must be quite close ashore near the surf swell. Nevertheless, he soon recognised it for what it really was—a huge billow. Then it seemed to him as if there was a laugh over in the other boat, and something said, "There goes thy boat, Elias!" He, foreseeing the calamity, now cried aloud: "In Jesus' Name!" and then bade his sons hold on with all their might to the withy-bands by the rowlocks when the boat went under, and not let go till it was above the water again. He made the elder of them go forward to Bernt; and himself held the youngest close by his side, stroked him once or twice furtively down the cheeks, and made sure that he had a good grip. The boat, literally buried beneath the foaming roller, was lifted gradually up by the bows and then went under. When it rose again out of the water, with the keel in the air, Elias, Bernt, and the twelve-year-old Martin lay alongside, holding on by the withy-bands; but the third of the brothers was gone.
They had now first of all to get the shrouds on one side cut through, so that the mast might come to the surface alongside instead of disturbing the balance of the boat below; and then they must climb up on the swaying bottom of the boat and stave in the key-holes, to let out the air which kept the boat too high in the water, and so ease her. After great exertions they succeeded, and Elias, who had got up on the top first, now helped the other two up after him.
There they sat through the long dark winter night, clinging convulsively on by their hands and knees to the boat's bottom, which was drenched by the billows again and again.
After the lapse of a couple of hours died Martin, whom his father had held up the whole time as far as he was able, of sheer exhaustion, and glided down into the sea. They had tried to cry for help several times, but gave it up at last as a bad job.
Whilst they two thus sat all alone on the bottom of the boat, Elias said to Bernt he must now needs believe that he too was about to be "along o' mother!" but that he had a strong hope that Bernt, at any rate, would be saved, if he only held out like a man. Then he told him all about the Draug, whom he had struck below the neck with the Kvejtepig, and how it had now revenged itself upon him, and certainly would not forbear till it was "quits with him."
It was towards nine o'clock in the morning when the grey dawn began to appear. Then Elias gave to Bernt, who sat alongside him, his silver watch with the brass chain, which he had snapped in two in order to drag it from beneath his closely buttoned jacket. He held on for a little time longer, but, as it got lighter, Bernt saw that his father's face was deadly pale, his hair too had parted here and there, as often happens when death is at hand, and his skin was chafed off his hands from holding on to the keel. The son understood now that his father was nearly at the last gasp, and tried, so far as the pitching and tossing would allow it, to hold him up; but when Elias marked it, he said, "Nay, look to thyself, Bernt, and hold on fast. I go to mother—in Jesus' Name!" and with that he cast himself down headlong from the top of the boat.
Every one who has sat on the keel of a boat long enough knows that when the sea has got its own it grows much calmer, though not immediately. Bernt now found it easier to hold on, and still more of hope came to him with the brightening day. The storm abated, and, when it got quite light, it seemed to him that he knew where he was, and that it was outside his own homestead, Kvalholm, that he lay driving.
He now began again to cry for help, but his chief hope was in a current which he knew bore landwards at a place where a headland broke in upon the surge, and there the water was calmer. And he did, in fact, drive closer and closer in, and came at last so near to one of the rocks that the mast, which was floating by the side of the boat all the time, surged up and down in the swell against the sloping cliff. Stiff as he now was in all his limbs from sitting and holding on, he nevertheless succeeded, after a great effort, in clambering up the cliff, where he hauled the mast ashore, and made the Femboering fast.
The Finn girl, who was alone in the house, had been thinking, for the last two hours, that she had heard cries for help from time to time, and as they kept on she mounted the hill to see what it was. There she saw Bernt up on the cliff, and the overturned Femboering bobbing up and down against it. She immediately dashed down to the boat-place, got out the old rowing-boat, and rowed along the shore and round the island right out to him.
Bernt lay sick under her care the whole winter through, and didn't go a fishing all that year. Ever after this, too, it seemed to folks as if the lad were a little bit daft.
On the open sea he never would go again, for he had got the sea-scare. He wedded the Finn girl, and moved over to Malang, where he got him a clearing in the forest, and he lives there now, and is doing well, they say.
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 A district in northern Norway.
 A boat with three oars on each side.
 A long pole, with a hooked iron spike at the end of it, for spearing Kvejte or hallibut with.
 A large boat with five oars on each side, used for winter fishing in northern Norway.
 The chief port in those parts.
 Hin Karen = "the devil." Karen is the Danish Karl.
 The Kloer, or clews, were rings in the corner of the sail to fasten it down by in a strong wind. Setja ei Klo = "take in the sail a clew." Setja tvo, or tri Kloer = "take it in two or three clews," i.e., diminish it still further as the wind grew stronger.
 A demon peculiar to the north Norwegian coast. It rides the seas in a half-boat. Compare Icelandic draugr.
 See note 3 above.
 Vaere med hu, Mor. Hu is the Danish Hun.
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JACK OF SJOEHOLM AND THE GAN-FINN
JACK OF SJOEHOLM AND THE GAN-FINN
In the days of our forefathers, when there was nothing but wretched boats up in Nordland, and folks must needs buy fair winds by the sackful from the Gan-Finn, it was not safe to tack about in the open sea in wintry weather. In those days a fisherman never grew old. It was mostly womenfolk and children, and the lame and halt, who were buried ashore.
Now there was once a boat's crew from Thjoettoe in Helgeland, which had put to sea, and worked its way right up to the East Lofotens.
But that winter the fish would not bite.
They lay to and waited week after week, till the month was out, and there was nothing for it but to turn home again with their fishing gear and empty boats.
But Jack of Sjoeholm, who was with them, only laughed aloud, and said that, if there were no fish there, fish would certainly be found higher northwards. Surely they hadn't rowed out all this distance only to eat up all their victuals, said he.
He was quite a young chap, who had never been out fishing before. But there was some sense in what he said for all that, thought the head-fisherman.
And so they set their sails northwards.
On the next fishing-ground they fared no better than before, but they toiled away so long as their food held out.
And now they all insisted on giving it up and turning back.
"If there's none here, there's sure to be some still higher up towards the north," opined Jack; "and if they had gone so far, they might surely go a little further still," quoth he.
So they tempted fortune from fishing-ground to fishing-ground, till they had ventured right up to Finmark. But there a storm met them, and, try as they might to find shelter under the headlands, they were obliged at last to put out into the open sea again.
There they fared worse than ever. They had a hard time of it. Again and again the prow of the boat went under the heavy rollers, instead of over them, and later on in the day the boat foundered.
There they all sat helplessly on the keel in the midst of the raging sea, and they all complained bitterly against that fellow Jack, who had tempted them on, and led them into destruction. What would now become of their wives and children? They would starve now that they had none to care for them.
When it grew dark, their hands began to stiffen, and they were carried off by the sea one by one.
And Jack heard and saw everything, down to the last shriek and the last clutch; and to the very end they never ceased reproaching him for bringing them into such misery, and bewailing their sad lot.
"I must hold on tight now," said Jack to himself, for he was better even where he was than in the sea.
And so he tightened his knees on the keel, and held on fast till he had no feeling left in either hand or foot.
In the coal-black gusty night he fancied he heard yells from one or other of the remaining boats' crews.
"They, too, have wives and children," thought he. "I wonder whether they have also a Jack to lay the blame upon!"
Now while he thus lay there and drifted and drifted, and it seemed to him to be drawing towards dawn, he suddenly felt that the boat was in the grip of a strong shoreward current; and, sure enough, Jack got at last ashore. But whichever way he looked, he saw nothing but black sea and white snow.
Now as he stood there, speering and spying about him, he saw, far away, the smoke of a Finn Gamme, which stood beneath a cliff, and he managed to scramble right up to it.
The Finn was so old that he could scarcely move. He was sitting in the midst of the warm ashes, and mumbling into a big sack, and neither spoke nor answered. Large yellow humble-bees were humming about all over the snow, as if it were Midsummer; and there was only a young lass there to keep the fire alight, and give the old man his food. His grandsons and grand-daughters were with the reindeer, far far away on the Fjeld.
Here Jack got his clothes well dried, and the rest he so much wanted. The Finn girl, Seimke, couldn't make too much of him; she fed him with reindeer milk and marrow-bones, and he lay down to sleep on silver fox-skins.
Cosy and comfortable it was in the smoke there. But as he thus lay there, 'twixt sleep and wake, it seemed to him as if many odd things were going on round about him.
There stood the Finn in the doorway talking to his reindeer, although they were far away in the mountains. He barred the wolf's way, and threatened the bear with spells; and then he opened his skin sack, so that the storm howled and piped, and there was a swirl of ashes into the hut. And when all grew quiet again, the air was thick with yellow humble-bees, which settled inside his furs, whilst he gabbled and mumbled and wagged his skull-like head.
But Jack had something else to think about besides marvelling at the old Finn. No sooner did the heaviness of slumber quit his eyes than he strolled down to his boat.
There it lay stuck fast on the beach and tilted right over like a trough, while the sea rubbed and rippled against its keel. He drew it far enough ashore to be beyond the reach of the sea-wash.
But the longer he walked around and examined it, the more it seemed to him as if folks built boats rather for the sake of letting the sea in than for the sake of keeping the sea out. The prow was little better than a hog's snout for burrowing under the water, and the planking by the keel-piece was as flat as the bottom of a chest. Everything, he thought, must be arranged very differently if boats were to be really seaworthy. The prow must be raised one or two planks higher at the very least, and made both sharp and supple, so as to bend before and cut through the waves at the same time, and then a fellow would have a chance of steering a boat smartly.
He thought of this day and night. The only relaxation he had was a chat with the Finn girl of an evening.
He couldn't help remarking that this Seimke had fallen in love with him. She strolled after him wherever he went, and her eyes always became so mournful when he went down towards the sea; she understood well enough that all his thoughts were bent upon going away.
And the Finn sat and mumbled among the ashes till his fur jacket regularly steamed and smoked.
But Seimke coaxed and wheedled Jack with her brown eyes, and gave him honeyed words as fast as her tongue could wag, till she drew him right into the smoke where the old Finn couldn't hear them.
The Gan-Finn turned his head right round.
"My eyes are stupid, and the smoke makes 'em run," said he; "what has Jack got hold of there?"
"Say it is the white ptarmigan you caught in the snare," whispered she.
And Jack felt that she was huddling up against him and trembling all over.
Then she told him so softly that he thought it was his own thoughts speaking to him, that the Finn was angry and muttering mischief, and joejking, against the boat which Jack wanted to build. If Jack were to complete it, said she, the Gan-Finn would no longer have any sale for his fair-winds in all Nordland. And then she warned him to look to himself and never get between the Finn and the Gan-flies.
Then Jack felt that his boat might be the undoing of him. But the worse things looked, the more he tried to make the best of them.
In the grey dawn, before the Finn was up, he made his way towards the sea-shore.
But there was something very odd about the snow-hills. They were so many and so long that there was really no end to them, and he kept on trampling in deep and deeper snow and never got to the sea-shore at all. Never before had he seen the northern lights last so long into the day. They blazed and sparkled, and long tongues of fire licked and hissed after him. He was unable to find either the beach or the boat, nor had he the least idea in the world where he really was.
At last he discovered that he had gone quite astray inland instead of down to the sea. But now, when he turned round, the sea-fog came close up against him, so dense and grey that he could see neither hand nor foot before him.
By the evening he was well-nigh worn out with weariness, and was at his wits' end what to do.
Night fell, and the snowdrifts increased.
As now he sat him down on a stone and fell a brooding and pondering how he should escape with his life, a pair of snow-shoes came gliding so smoothly towards him out of the sea-fog and stood still just in front of his feet.
"As you have found me, you may as well find the way back also," said he.
So he put them on, and let the snow-shoes go their own way over hillside and steep cliff. He let not his own eyes guide him or his own feet carry him, and the swifter he went the denser the snowflakes and the driving sea-spray came up against him, and the blast very nearly blew him off the snow-shoes.
Up hill and down dale he went over all the places where he had fared during the daytime, and it sometimes seemed as if he had nothing solid beneath him at all, but was flying in the air.
Suddenly the snow-shoes stood stock still, and he was standing just outside the entrance of the Gan-Finn's hut.
There stood Seimke. She was looking for him.
"I sent my snow-shoes after thee," said she, "for I marked that the Finn had bewitched the land so that thou should'st not find the boat. Thy life is safe, for he has given thee shelter in his house, but it were not well for thee to see him this evening."
Then she smuggled him in, so that the Finn did not perceive it in the thick smoke, and she gave him meat and a place to rest upon.
But when he awoke in the night, he heard an odd sound, and there was a buzzing and a singing far away in the air:
"The Finn the boat can never bind, The Fly the boatman cannot find, But round in aimless whirls doth wind."
The Finn was sitting among the ashes and joejking, and muttering till the ground quite shook, while Seimke lay with her forehead to the floor and her hands clasped tightly round the back of her neck, praying against him to the Finn God. Then Jack understood that the Gan-Finn was still seeking after him amidst the snowflakes and sea-fog, and that his life was in danger from magic spells.
So he dressed himself before it was light, went out, and came tramping in again all covered with snow, and said he had been after bears in their winter retreats. But never had he been in such a sea-fog before; he had groped about far and wide before he found his way back into the hut again, though he stood just outside it.
The Finn sat there with his skin-wrappings as full of yellow flies as a beehive. He had sent them out searching in every direction, but back they had all come, and were humming and buzzing about him.
When he saw Jack in the doorway, and perceived that the flies had pointed truly, he grew somewhat milder, and laughed till he regularly shook within his skin-wrappings, and mumbled, "The bear we'll bind fast beneath the scullery-sink, and his eyes I've turned all awry, so that he can't see his boat, and I'll stick a sleeping-peg in front of him till springtime."
But the same day the Finn stood in the doorway, and was busy making magic signs and strange strokes in the air.
Then he sent forth two hideous Gan-flies, which flitted off on their errands, and scorched black patches beneath them in the snow wherever they went. They were to bring pain and sickness to a cottage down in the swamps, and spread abroad the Finn disease, which was to strike down a young bride at Bodoe with consumption.
But Jack thought of nothing else night and day but how he could get the better of the Gan-Finn.
The lass Seimke wheedled him and wept and begged him, as he valued his life, not to try to get down to his boat again. At last, however, she saw it was no use—he had made up his mind to be off.
Then she kissed his hands and wept bitterly. At least he must promise to wait till the Gan-Finn had gone right away to Jokmok in Sweden.
On the day of his departure, the Finn went all round his hut with a torch and took stock.
Far away as they were, there stood the mountain pastures, with the reindeer and the dogs, and the Finn's people all drew near. The Finn took the tale of the beasts, and bade his grandsons not let the reindeer stray too far while he was away, and could not guard them from wolves and bears. Then he took a sleeping potion and began to dance and turn round and round till his breath quite failed him, and he sank moaning to the ground. His furs were all that remained behind of him. His spirit had gone—gone all the way over to Jokmok.
There the magicians were all sitting together in the dark sea-fog beneath the shelter of the high mountain, and whispering about all manner of secret and hidden things, and blowing spirits into the novices of the black art.
But the Gan-flies, humming and buzzing, went round and round the empty furs of the Gan-Finn like a yellow ring and kept watch.
In the night Jack was awakened by something pulling and tugging at him as if from far away. There was as it were a current of air, and something threatened and called to him from the midst of the snowflakes outside—
"Until thou canst swim like the duck or the drake, The egg thou'dst be hatching no progress shall make; The Finn shall ne'er let thee go southwards with sail, For he'll screw off the wind and imprison the gale."
At the end of it the Gan-Finn was standing there, and bending right over him. The skin of his face hung down long and loose, and full of wrinkles, like an old reindeer skin, and there was a dizzying smoke in his eyes. Then Jack began to shiver and stiffen in all his limbs, and he knew that the Finn was bent upon bewitching him.
Then he set his face rigidly against it, so that the magic spells should not get at him; and thus they struggled with one another till the Gan-Finn grew green in the face, and was very near choking.
After that the sorcerers of Jokmok sent magic shots after Jack, and clouded his wits. He felt so odd; and whenever he was busy with his boat, and had put something to rights in it, something else would immediately go wrong, till at last he felt as if his head were full of pins and needles.
Then deep sorrow fell upon him. Try as he would, he couldn't put his boat together as he would have it; and it looked very much as if he would never be able to cross the sea again.
But in the summer time Jack and Seimke sat together on the headland in the warm evenings, and the gnats buzzed and the fishes spouted close ashore in the stillness, and the eider-duck swam about.
"If only some one would build me a boat as swift and nimble as a fish, and able to ride upon the billows like a sea-mew!" sighed and lamented Jack, "then I could be off."
"Would you like me to guide you to Thjoettoe?" said a voice up from the sea-shore.
There stood a fellow in a flat turned-down skin cap, whose face they couldn't see.
And right outside the boulders there, just where they had seen the eider-duck, lay a long and narrow boat, with high prow and stern; and the tar-boards were mirrored plainly in the clear water below; there was not so much as a single knot in the wood.
"I would be thankful for any such guidance," said Jack.
When Seimke heard this, she began to cry and take on terribly. She fell upon his neck, and wouldn't let go, and raved and shrieked. She promised him her snow-shoes, which would carry him through everything, and said she would steal for him the bone-stick from the Gan-Finn, so that he might find all the old lucky dollars that ever were buried, and would teach him how to make salmon-catching knots in the fishing lines, and how to entice the reindeer from afar. He should become as rich as the Gan-Finn, if only he wouldn't forsake her.
But Jack had only eyes for the boat down there. Then she sprang up, and tore down her black locks, and bound them round his feet, so that he had to wrench them off before he could get quit of her.
"If I stay here and play with you and the young reindeer, many a poor fellow will have to cling with broken nails to the keel of a boat," said he. "If you like to make it up, give me a kiss and a parting hug, or shall I go without them?"
Then she threw herself into his arms like a young wild cat, and looked straight into his eyes through her tears, and shivered and laughed, and was quite beside herself.
But when she saw she could do nothing with him, she rushed away, and waved her hands above her head in the direction of the Gamme.
Then Jack understood that she was going to take counsel of the Gan-Finn, and that he had better take refuge in his boat before the way was closed to him. And, in fact, the boat had come so close up to the boulders, that he had only to step down upon the thwarts. The rudder glided into his hand, and aslant behind the mast sat some one at the prow, and hoisted and stretched the sail: but his face Jack could not see.
Away they went.
And such a boat for running before the wind Jack had never seen before. The sea stood up round about them like a deep snow-drift, although it was almost calm. But they hadn't gone very far before a nasty piping began in the air. The birds shrieked and made for land, and the sea rose like a black wall behind them.
It was the Gan-Finn who had opened his wind-sack, and sent a storm after them.
"One needs a full sail in the Finn-cauldron here," said something from behind the mast.
The fellow who had the boat in hand took such little heed of the weather that he did not so much as take in a single clew.
Then the Gan-Finn sent double knots after them.
They sped along in a wild dance right over the firth, and the sea whirled up in white columns of foam, reaching to the very clouds.
Unless the boat could fly as quick and quicker than a bird, it was lost.
Then a hideous laugh was heard to larboard—
"Anfinn Ganfinn gives mouth, And blows us right south; There's a crack in the sack, With three clews we must tack."
And heeling right over, with three clews in the sail, and the heavy foremost fellow astride on the sheer-strake, with his huge sea-boots dangling in the sea-foam, away they scudded through the blinding spray right into the open sea, amidst the howling and roaring of the wind.
The billowy walls were so vast and heavy that Jack couldn't even see the light of day across the yards, nor could he exactly make out whether they were going under or over the sea-trough.
The boat shook the sea aside as lightly and easily as if its prow were the slippery fin of a fish, and its planking was as smooth and fine as the shell of a tern's egg; but, look as he would, Jack couldn't see where these planks ended; it was just as if there was only half a boat and no more; and at last it seemed to him as if the whole of the front part came off in the sea-foam, and they were scudding along under sail in half a boat.
When night fell, they went through the sea-fire, which glowed like hot embers, and there was a prolonged and hideous howling up in the air to windward.
And cries of distress and howls of mortal agony answered the wind from all the upturned boat keels they sped by, and many hideously pale-looking folks clutched hold of their thwarts. The gleam of the sea-fire cast a blue glare on their faces, and they sat, and gaped, and glared, and yelled at the blast.
Suddenly he awoke, and something cried, "Now thou art at home at Thjoettoe, Jack!"
And when he had come to himself a bit, he recognised where he was. He was lying over against the boulders near his boathouse at home. The tide had come so far inland that a border of foam gleamed right up in the potato-field, and he could scarcely keep his feet for the blast. He sat him down in the boathouse, and began scratching and marking out the shape of the Draugboat in the black darkness till sleep overtook him.
When it was light in the morning, his sister came down to him with a meat-basket. She didn't greet him as if he were a stranger, but behaved as if it were the usual thing for her to come thus every morning. But when he began telling her all about his voyage to Finmark, and the Gan-Finn, and the Draugboat he had come home in at night, he perceived that she only grinned and let him chatter. And all that day he talked about it to his sister and his brothers and his mother, until he arrived at the conclusion that they thought him a little out of his wits. When he mentioned the Draugboat they smiled amongst themselves, and evidently went out of their way to humour him. But they might believe what they liked, if only he could carry out what he wanted to do, and be left to himself in the out-of-the-way old boathouse.
"One should go with the stream," thought Jack; and if they thought him crazy and out of his wits, he ought to behave so that they might beware of interfering with him, and disturbing him in his work.
So he took a bed of skins with him down to the boathouse, and slept there at night; but in the daytime he perched himself on a pole on the roof, and bellowed out that now he was sailing. Sometimes he rode astraddle on the roof ridge, and dug his sheath-knife deep into the rafters, so that people might think he fancied himself at sea, holding fast on to the keel of a boat.
Whenever folks passed by, he stood in the doorway, and turned up the whites of his eyes so hideously, that every one who saw him was quite scared. As for the people at home, it was as much as they dared to stick his meat-basket into the boathouse for him. So they sent it to him by his youngest sister, merry little Malfri, who would sit and talk with him, and thought it such fun when he made toys and playthings for her, and talked about the boat which should go like a bird, and sail as no other boat had ever sailed.
If any one chanced to come upon him unexpectedly, and tried to peep and see what he was about in the boathouse there, he would creep up into the timber-loft and bang and pitch the boards and planks about, so that they didn't know exactly where to find him, and were glad enough to be off. But one and all made haste to climb over the hill again when they heard him fling himself down at full length and send peal after peal of laughter after them.
So that was how Jack got folks to leave him at peace.
He worked best at night when the storm tore and tugged at the stones and birchbark of the turf roof, and the sea-wrack came right up to the boathouse door.
When it piped and whined through the fissured walls, and the fine snowflakes flitted through the cracks, the model of the Draugboat stood plainest before him. The winter days were short, and the wick of the train-oil lamp, which hung over him as he worked, cast deep shadows, so that the darkness came soon and lasted a long way into the morning, when he sought sleep in his bed of skins with a heap of shavings for his pillow.
He spared no pains or trouble. If there was a board which would not run into the right groove with the others, though never so little, he would take out a whole row of them and plane them all round again and again.
Now, one night, just before Christmas, he had finished all but the uppermost planking and the gabs. He was working so hard to finish up that he took no count of time.
The plane was sending the shavings flying their briskest when he came to a dead stop at something black which was moving along the plank.
It was a large and hideous fly which was crawling about and feeling and poking all the planks in the boat. When it reached the lowest keel-board it whirred with its wings and buzzed. Then it rose and swept above it in the air till, all at once, it swerved away into the darkness.
Jack's heart sank within him. Such doubt and anguish came upon him. He knew well enough that no good errand had brought the Gan-fly buzzing over the boat like that.
So he took the train-oil lamp and a wooden club, and began to test the prow and light up the boarding, and thump it well, and go over the planks one by one. And in this way he went over every bit of the boat from stem to stern, both above and below. There was not a nail or a rivet that he really believed in now.
But now neither the shape nor the proportions of the boat pleased him any more. The prow was too big, and the whole cut of the boat all the way down the gunwale had something of a twist and a bend and a swerve about it, so that it looked like the halves of two different boats put together, and the half in front didn't fit in with the half behind. As he was about to look into the matter still further (and he felt the cold sweat bursting out of the roots of his hair), the train-oil lamp went out and left him in blank darkness.
Then he could contain himself no longer. He lifted his club and burst open the boathouse door, and, snatching up a big cow-bell, he began to swing it about him and ring and ring with it through the black night.
"Art chiming for me, Jack?" something asked. There was a sound behind him like the surf sucking at the shore, and a cold blast blew into the boathouse.
There on the keel-stick sat some one in a sloppy grey sea-jacket, and with a print cap drawn down over its ears, so that its skull looked like a low tassel.
Jack gave a great start. This was the very being he had been thinking of in his wild rage. Then he took the large baling can and flung it at the Draug.
But right through the Draug it went, and rattled against the wall behind, and back again it came whizzing about Jack's ears, and if it had struck him he would never have got up again.
The old fellow, however, only blinked his eyes a little savagely.
"Fie!" cried Jack, and spat at the uncanny thing—and back into his face again he got as good as he gave.
"There you have your wet clout back again!" cried a laughing voice.
But the same instant Jack's eyes were opened and he saw a whole boat-building establishment on the sea-shore.
And, there, ready and rigged out on the bright water, lay an Ottring, so long and shapely and shining that his eyes could not feast on it enough.
The old 'un blinked with satisfaction. His eyes became more and more glowing.
"If I could guide you back to Helgeland," said he, "I could put you in the way of gaining your bread too. But you must pay me a little tax for it. In every seventh boat you build 'tis I who must put in the keel-board."
Jack felt as if he were choking. He felt that the boat was dragging him into the very jaws of an abomination.
"Or do you fancy you'll worm the trick out of me for nothing?" said the gaping grinning Draug.
Then there was a whirring sound, as if something heavy was hovering about the boathouse, and there was a laugh: "If you want the seaman's boat you must take the dead man's boat along with it. If you knock three times to-night on the keel-piece with the club, you shall have such help in building boats that the like of them will not be found in all Nordland."
Twice did Jack raise his club that night, and twice he laid it aside again.
But the Ottring lay and frisked and sported in the sea before his eyes, just as he had seen it, all bright and new with fresh tar, and with the ropes and fishing gear just put in. He kicked and shook the fine slim boat with his foot just to see how light and high she could rise on the waves above the water-line.
And once, twice, thrice, the club smote against the keel-piece.
So that was how the first boat was built at Sjoeholm.
Thick as birds together stood a countless number of people on the headland in the autumn, watching Jack and his brothers putting out in the new Ottring.
It glided through the strong current so that the foam was like a foss all round it.
Now it was gone, and now it ducked up again like a sea-mew, and past skerries and capes it whizzed like a dart.
Out in the fishing grounds the folks rested upon their oars and gaped. Such a boat they had never seen before.
But if in the first year it was an Ottring, next year it was a broad heavy Femboering for winter fishing which made the folks open their eyes.
And every boat that Jack turned out was lighter to row and swifter to sail than the one before it.
But the largest and finest of all was the last that stood on the stocks on the shore.
This was the seventh.
Jack walked to and fro, and thought about it a good deal; but when he came down to see it in the morning, it seemed to him, oddly enough, to have grown in the night and, what is more, was such a wondrous beauty that he was struck dumb with astonishment. There it lay ready at last, and folks were never tired of talking about it.
Now, the Bailiff who ruled over all Helgeland in those days was an unjust man who laid heavy taxes upon the people, taking double weight and tale both of fish and of eider-down, nor was he less grasping with the tithes and grain dues. Wherever his fellows came they fleeced and flayed. No sooner, then, did the rumour of the new boats reach him than he sent his people out to see what truth was in it, for he himself used to go fishing in the fishing grounds with large crews. When thus his fellows came back and told him what they had seen, the Bailiff was so taken with it that he drove straightway over to Sjoeholm, and one fine day down he came swooping on Jack like a hawk. "Neither tithe nor tax hast thou paid for thy livelihood, so now thou shalt be fined as many half-marks of silver as thou hast made boats," said he.
Ever louder and fiercer grew his rage. Jack should be put in chains and irons and be transported northwards to the fortress of Skraar, and be kept so close that he should never see sun or moon more.
But when the Bailiff had rowed round the Femboering, and feasted his eyes upon it, and seen how smart and shapely it was, he agreed at last to let Mercy go before Justice, and was content to take the Femboering in lieu of a fine.
Then Jack took off his cap and said that if there was one man more than another to whom he would like to give the boat, it was his honour the Bailiff.
So off the magistrate sailed with it.
Jack's mother and sister and brothers cried bitterly at the loss of the beautiful Femboering; but Jack stood on the roof of the boat-house and laughed fit to split.
And towards autumn the news spread that the Bailiff with his eight men had gone down with the Femboering in the West-fjord.
But in those days there was quite a changing about of boats all over Nordland, and Jack was unable to build a tenth part of the boats required of him. Folks from near and far hung about the walls of his boat-house, and it was quite a favour on his part to take orders, and agree to carry them out. A whole score of boats soon stood beneath the pent-house on the strand.
He no longer troubled his head about every seventh boat, or cared to know which it was or what befell it. If a boat foundered now and then, so many the more got off and did well, so that, on the whole, he made a very good thing indeed out of it. Besides, surely folks could pick and choose their own boats, and take which they liked best.
But Jack got so great and mighty that it was not advisable for any one to thwart him, or interfere where he ruled and reigned.
Whole rows of silver dollars stood in the barrels in the loft, and his boat-building establishment stretched over all the islands of Sjoeholm.
One Sunday his brothers and merry little Malfri had gone to church in the Femboering. When evening came, and they hadn't come home, the boatman came in and said that some one had better sail out and look after them, as a gale was blowing up.
Jack was sitting with a plumb-line in his hand, taking the measurements of a new boat, which was to be bigger and statelier than any of the others, so that it was not well to disturb him.
"Do you fancy they're gone out in a rotten old tub, then?" bellowed he. And the boatman was driven out as quickly as he had come.
But at night Jack lay awake and listened. The wind whined outside and shook the walls, and there were cries from the sea far away. And just then there came a knocking at the door, and some one called him by name.
"Go back whence you came," cried he, and nestled more snugly in his bed.
Shortly afterwards there came the fumbling and the scratching of tiny fingers at the door.
"Can't you leave me at peace o' nights?" he bawled, "or must I build me another bedroom?"
But the knocking and the fumbling for the latch outside continued, and there was a sweeping sound at the door, as of some one who could not open it. And there was a stretching of hands towards the latch ever higher and higher.
But Jack only lay there and laughed. "The Femboerings that are built at Sjoeholm don't go down before the first blast that blows," mocked he.
Then the latch chopped and hopped till the door flew wide open, and in the doorway stood pretty Malfri and her mother and brothers. The sea-fire shone about them, and they were dripping with water.
Their faces were pale and blue, and pinched about the corners of the mouth, as if they had just gone through their death agony. Malfri had one stiff arm round her mother's neck; it was all torn and bleeding, just as when she had gripped her for the last time. She railed and lamented, and begged back her young life from him.
So now he knew what had befallen them.
Out into the dark night and the darker weather he went straightway to search for them, with as many boats and folk as he could get together. They sailed and searched in every direction, and it was in vain.
But towards day the Femboering came drifting homewards bottom upwards, and with a large hole in the keel-board.
Then he knew who had done the deed.
But since the night when the whole of Jack's family went down, things were very different at Sjoeholm.
In the daytime, so long as the hammering and the banging and the planing and the clinching rang about his ears, things went along swimmingly, and the frames of boat after boat rose thick as sea fowl on an AEggevaer.
But no sooner was it quiet of an evening than he had company. His mother bustled and banged about the house, and opened and shut drawers and cupboards, and the stairs creaked with the heavy tread of his brothers going up to their bedrooms.
At night no sleep visited his eyes, and sure enough pretty Malfri came to his door and sighed and groaned.
Then he would lie awake there and think, and reckon up how many boats with false keel-boards he might have sent to sea. And the longer he reckoned the more draug-boats he made of it.
Then he would plump out of bed and creep through the dark night down to the boathouse. There he held a light beneath the boats, and banged and tested all the keel-boards with a club to see if he couldn't hit upon the seventh. But he neither heard nor felt a single board give way. One was just like another. They were all hard and supple, and the wood, when he scraped off the tar, was white and fresh.
One night he was so tormented by an uneasiness about the new Sekstring, which lay down by the bridge ready to set off next morning, that he had no peace till he went down and tested its keel-board with his club.
But while he sat in the boat, and was bending over the thwart with a light, there was a gulping sound out at sea, and then came such a vile stench of rottenness. The same instant he heard a wading sound, as of many people coming ashore, and then up over the headland he saw a boat's crew coming along.
They were all crooked-looking creatures, and they all leaned right forward and stretched out their arms before them. Whatever came in their way, both stone and stour, they went right through it, and there was neither sound nor shriek.
Behind them came another boat's crew, big and little, grown men and little children, rattling and creaking.
And crew after crew came ashore and took the path leading to the headland.
When the moon peeped forth Jack could see right into their skeletons. Their faces glared, and their mouths gaped open with glistening teeth, as if they had been swallowing water. They came in heaps and shoals, one after the other: the place quite swarmed with them.
Then Jack perceived that here were all they whom he had tried to count and reckon up as he lay in bed, and a fit of fury came upon him.
He rose in the boat and spanked his leather breeches behind and cried: "You would have been even more than you are already if Jack hadn't built his boats!"
But now like an icy whizzing blast they all came down upon him, staring at him with their hollow eyes.
They gnashed their teeth, and each one of them sighed and groaned for his lost life.
Then Jack, in his horror, put out from Sjoeholm.
But the sail slackened, and he glided into dead water. There, in the midst of the still water, was a floating mass of rotten swollen planks. All of them had once been shaped and fashioned together, but were now burst and sprung, and slime and green mould and filth and nastiness hung about them.
Dead hands grabbed at the corners of them with their white knuckles and couldn't grip fast. They stretched themselves across the water and sank again.
Then Jack let out all his clews and sailed and sailed and tacked according as the wind blew.
He glared back at the rubbish behind him to see if those things were after him. Down in the sea all the dead hands were writhing, and tried to strike him with gaffs astern.
Then there came a gust of wind whining and howling, and the boat drove along betwixt white seething rollers.
The weather darkened, thick snowflakes filled the air, and the rubbish around him grew greener.
In the daytime he took the cormorants far away in the grey mist for his landmarks, and at night they screeched about his ears.
And the birds flitted and flitted continually, but Jack sat still and looked out upon the hideous cormorants.
At last the sea-fog lifted a little, and the air began to be alive with bright, black, buzzing flies. The sun burned, and far away inland the snowy plains blazed in its light.
He recognised very well the headland and shore where he was now able to lay to. The smoke came from the Gamme up on the snow-hill there. In the doorway sat the Gan-Finn. He was lifting his pointed cap up and down, up and down, by means of a thread of sinew, which went right through him, so that his skin creaked.
And up there also sure enough was Seimke.
She looked old and angular as she bent over the reindeer-skin that she was spreading out in the sunny weather. But she peeped beneath her arm as quick and nimble as a cat with kittens, and the sun shone upon her, and lit up her face and pitch-black hair.
She leaped up so briskly, and shaded her eyes with her hand, and looked down at him. Her dog barked, but she quieted it so that the Gan-Finn should mark nothing.
Then a strange longing came over him, and he put ashore.
He stood beside her, and she threw her arms over her head, and laughed and shook and nestled close up to him, and cried and pleaded, and didn't know what to do with herself, and ducked down upon his bosom, and threw herself on his neck, and kissed and fondled him, and wouldn't let him go.
But the Gan-Finn had noticed that there was something amiss, and sat all the time in his furs, and mumbled and muttered to the Gan-flies, so that Jack dare not get between him and the doorway.
The Finn was angry.
Since there had been such a changing about of boats over all Nordland, and there was no more sale for his fair winds, he was quite ruined, he complained. He was now so poor that he would very soon have to go about and beg his bread. And of all his reindeer he had only a single doe left, who went about there by the house.
Then Seimke crept behind Jack, and whispered to him to bid for this doe. Then she put the reindeer-skin around her, and stood inside the Gamme door in the smoke, so that the Gan-Finn only saw the grey skin, and fancied it was the reindeer they were bringing in.
Then Jack laid his hand upon Seimke's neck, and began to bid.
The pointed cap ducked and nodded, and the Finn spat in the warm air; but sell his reindeer he would not.
Jack raised his price.
But the Finn heaved up the ashes all about him, and threatened and shrieked. The flies came as thick as snow-flakes; the Finn's furry wrappings were alive with them.
Jack bid and bid till it reached a whole bushel load of silver, and the Finn was ready to jump out of his skins.
Then he stuck his head under his furs again, and mumbled and joejked till the amount rose to seven bushels of silver.
Then the Gan-Finn laughed till he nearly split. He thought the reindeer would cost the purchaser a pretty penny.
But Jack lifted Seimke up, and sprang down with her to his boat, and held the reindeer-skin behind him, against the Gan-Finn.
And they put off from land, and went to sea.
Seimke was so happy, and smote her hands together, and took her turn at the oars.
The northern light shot out like a comb, all greeny-red and fiery, and licked and played upon her face. She talked to it, and fought it with her hands, and her eyes sparkled. She used both tongue and mouth and rapid gestures as she exchanged words with it.
Then it grew dark, and she lay on his bosom, so that he could feel her warm breath. Her black hair lay right over him, and she was as soft and warm to the touch as a ptarmigan when it is frightened and its blood throbs.
Jack put the reindeer-skin over Seimke, and the boat rocked them to and fro on the heavy sea as if it were a cradle.
They sailed on and on till night-fall; they sailed on and on till they saw neither headland nor island nor sea-bird in the outer skerries more.
* * * * *
 This untranslatable word is a derivative of the Icelandic Gandr, and means magic of the black or malefic sort.
 The northernmost province of Norway, right within the Arctic circle.
 The huts peculiar to the Norwegian Finns.
 To sing songs (here magic songs), as the Finns do. Possibly derived from the Finnish verb joikun, which means monotonous chanting.
 The Norse Kverva Syni is to delude the sight by magic spells.
 I.e., the boat he (Jack) wanted to build.
 A mountain between Sweden and Norway.
 I.e., the boat he would be building.
 Meaning that he would never have a chance of building the new sort of boat that his mind was bent on.
 The Finn's hut.
 Tvinde Knuder. When the Finn tied one magic knot, he raised a gale, so two knots would give a tempest.
 I.e., where the Gan-Finn let out the wind.
 An eight-oared boat.
 A place where sea-birds' eggs abound.
 A contraction of Sexaering, i.e., a boat with six oars.
 Eng. dialect word (the Norse is staur) meaning impediments of any kind.
 Daudvatn (Dan. Doedvand), water in which there is no motion.
* * * * *
TUG OF WAR.
TUG OF WAR
For the last two or three days the weather had been terrific; but on the third day it so far cleared up that one of the men who belonged to the fishing station thought that they might manage to drag the nets a bit that day. The others, however, were not inclined to venture out. Now it is the custom for the various crews to lend each other a hand in pushing off the boats, and so it happened now. When, however, they came to the Femboering, which was drawn up a good distance ashore, they found the oars and the thwarts turned upside down in the boat, and, more than that, despite all their exertions, it was impossible to move the boat from the spot. They tried once, twice, thrice; but it was of no use. But then one of them, who was known to have second sight, said that, from what he saw, it would be best not to touch the boat at all that day; it was too heavy for the might of man to move. One of the crew, however, who belonged to the fishing-station (he was a smart lad of fourteen), was amusing them all the time with all manner of pranks and tomfoolery. He now caught up a heavy stone, and pitched it with all his might right into the stern of the boat. Then, suddenly and plainly visible to them all, out of the boat rushed a Draug in seaman's clothes, but with a heavy crop of seaweed instead of a head. It had been weighing down the boat by sitting in the stern, and now dashed into the sea, so that the foam spirted all over them. After that the Femboering glided quite smoothly into the water. Then the man with second sight looked at the boy, and said that he should not have done so. But the lad went on laughing as before, and said he didn't believe in such stuff. When they had come home in the evening, and the folks lay sleeping in the fishing-station, they heard, about twelve o'clock at night, the lad yelling for help; it even seemed to one of them, by the light of the train-oil lamp, as if a heavy hand were stretching forward from the door right up to the bench on which the lad lay. The lad, yelling and struggling, had already been dragged as far as the door before the others had so far come to their senses as to think of grasping him round the body to prevent him from being dragged right out. And now, in mid doorway, a hard fight began, the Draug dragging him by the legs, while the whole crew tugged against him with the boy's arms and upper limbs. Thus, amidst yelling and groaning, they swayed to and fro all through the midnight hour, backwards and forwards, in the half-open door; and now the Draug, and now the men, had the most of the boy on their side of the doorway. All at once the Draug let go, so that the whole crew fell higgledy-piggledy backwards on to the floor. Then they found that the boy was dead; it was only then that the Draug had let him go.
* * * * *
"THE EARTH DRAWS"
"THE EARTH DRAWS"
There was once a young salesman at the storekeeper's at Soervaag.
He was fair, with curly hair, shrewd blue eyes, and so smart, and obliging, and handsome, that all the girls in the town got themselves sent on errands, and made pilgrimages to the shop on purpose to see him. Moreover, he was so smart and skilful in everything he put his hand to, that the storekeeper never would part with him.
Now it happened one day that he went out to a fishing station for his principal.
The current was dead against him, so he rode close in shore.
All at once he saw a little ring in the rocky wall a little above high-water mark. He thought it was the sort of ring which is used for fastening boats to, so he fancied it wouldn't do any harm to rest a bit and lay to ashore, and have a snack of something, for he had been pulling at the oars from early morn.
But when he took hold of the ring to run his boatline through it, it fitted round his finger so tightly that he had to tug at it. He tugged, and out of the mountain side with a rush came a large drawer. It was brimful of silk neckerchiefs and women's frippery.
He was amazed, and began pondering the matter over.
Then he saw what looked like rusty flakes of iron in rows right over the whole mountain side, exactly resembling the slit of his own drawer.
He had now got the ring on his finger, and must needs try if it would open the other slits also. And out he drew drawer after drawer full of gold bracelets and silver bracelets, glass pearls, brooches and rings, bracelets and laced caps, yarn, night-caps and woollen drawers, coffee, sugar, groats, tobacco pipes, buttons, hooks and eyes, knives, axes, and scythes.
He drew out drawer after drawer; there was no end to the display they made.
But all round about him he heard, as it were, the humming of a crowd and the tramp of sea-boots. There was a hubbub, as if they were rolling hogsheads over a bridge and hoisting sails against the wind, and out from the sea sounded the stroke of oars and the bumping of boats putting ashore.
Then he began to have an inkling that he had laid to his boat at a mooring-ring belonging to the underground folk, and had lit right upon their landing-place where they deposited their wares.
He stood there looking into a drawer of meerschaum pipes. They were finer than any he had thought it possible to find in the whole world.
Then he felt, as it were, the blow of a heavy hand which tried to thrust him aside; but, at the same time, some one laughed so merrily close by. The same instant he saw a young woman in the fore-part of his boat. She was leaning, with broad shoulders and hairy arms, over a meal-sack. Her eyes laughed and shot forth sparks as from a smithy in the dark, but her face was oddly pale.
Then she vanished altogether like a vision.
He was glad when he got down into his boat again, and pushed off and rode away.
But when he got out into the sound, and slackened speed a bit, he perceived that the ring still sat upon his finger.
His first thought was to tear it off and fling it into the sea; but then it sat tighter than ever.
It was so curiously wrought and fretted and engraved that he must needs examine it more curiously; and the longer he looked at it the stranger the gold whereof it was wrought gleamed and glistened. Turn it as he would to examine its spirals, he could never make out where they began and where they ended.
But as he sat there and looked and looked at it, the black crackling and sparkling eyes of that pale face stood out more and more plainly before his eyes. He didn't exactly know whether he thought her ugly or handsome—the uncanny creature!
The ring he now meant to keep, come what might.
And home he rowed, and said not a word to anybody of what had happened to him.
But from that day forth a strange restlessness came over him.
When he was sweeping out the shop or measuring goods, he would suddenly stand there in a brown study, and fancy he was right away at the landing-stage in the mountain-side, and the black woman was laughing at him over the meal-sack.
Out yonder he must needs venture once more, and put his ring to the test, though it cost him his life.
And in the course of the summer his boat lay over at the mountain-side in the self-same place as before.
When he had opened the drawer with his gold ring, he caught sight of the broad-shouldered woman. Her eyes sparkled, and had a wild look about them, and she peered curiously at him.
And, every time he came, he seemed to be more expected, and she was more and more gladsome. They became quite old acquaintances, and she was always waiting for him there.
But at home he grew gloomy and silent. Yet, although he bethought him that it was all sorcery, and her arms were hairy almost like a beast's, and although he determined and really tried to keep away, nevertheless he could not help going thither, and whenever he had been away from her a whole week, she grew quite unmanageable, and laughed and shrieked when she saw him coming again.
And he always heard the noise and the bustle of many people all about him, but never could he see anything. It seemed to him, however, as if they all lay a little way off and pulled their boat aside for him to pass. His boat, too, was always nicely baled out, and the oars and sails righted and trimmed. The cable, too, was fastened for him whenever he came, and thrown to him whenever he went away.
Now and then she so managed it that he caught a glimpse into their warehouses and their bright halls in the mountain side, and at such times she seemed to be enticing him after her. And then, on his way home, he would shudder. "What," thought he, "if the mountain wall were to shut to behind me?" and every time he was right glad that he had been so far on his guard and had come off scot free.
And now, towards autumn, he grew more at his ease. He really made up his mind to try to give up these journeys. He set to work in real earnest, so that he had no time for thought, and plunged into his business with fiery impetuosity.
But when Christmas-tide drew nigh with its snowflakes and darkness, such strange fancies came over him.
Whenever he went into the dark draughty nooks and corners, he saw the strong, heavily built shape before him. She laughed and called to him, and shrieked and sent him messages by the blast. And then a strong desire came upon him.
And one day he was unable to hold out any longer, so off he went.
He fancied he caught a glimpse of her a long way off. She was casting huge boulders aside so as to see and follow the course of the boat, and she beckoned and greeted him through the drizzle and the mist. It was as though the current was bearing him thither all the time.
When he came up, the sea seethed and boiled for the crowds that were in it, though he saw them not. They waded out to him and drew his boat ashore, and steps and a bridge lay there ready for his feet. But right at the top stood she, and her breath came heavily, and she leaned towards him and drew him with those bold eyes of hers set in that face as pale as night. She went swiftly inland, looked behind her, and beckoned him after her; and then she threw open the door of an old iron safe in the midst of the wall.
On its shelves sparkled a bridal crown, and a shining girdle and breastplate and a kirtle, and all manner of bridal finery.
There she stood, and her breath came straining hot and heavy through her white teeth, and she smiled and ogled him archly. He felt her take hold of him, and it was as though a darkness fell around him.
Then all at once, as if in a gleam of twilight, he saw the whole trading-place, vast and wealthy and splendid, all round about him with its haven, warehouses, and trading-ships. She stretched out her hands and pointed to it, as if she would say that he should be the lord and master of the whole of it.
A cold shiver ran through him; he perceived that it led right into the mountain.
And out he rushed.
He cut the cable through with his knife, and wrenched the ring from his finger, and cast it into the sea, and off he rowed, so that the sea was like a foaming foss around him.
When he got home to his work again, and the bustle of the Christmas season began, he felt as if he had awakened from a heavy nightmare or an evil dream. He felt so light of heart. He chatted gaily with customers over the counter, and his old life went on much the same as before. And everything he put his hand to went along as smooth as butter.
But the tradesman's daughter stuck her head into the shop not once nor twice. She looked and smiled at him in shy admiration. Never had he remarked before what taking ways were hers, or noticed how bonnie and bright the lassie was, and how graceful and supple she looked as she stood in the doorway. And ever since the tradesman's daughter had looked so strangely at him, he had no thought for any one but her. He was always thinking what a way she had of holding her head, and how slim she looked when she walked about, and what quick and lively blue eyes she had, just like merry twinkling stars.
He would lay awake o' nights, and reflect upon his grievous abominable sin in lowering himself to the level of an uncanny monster, and right glad was he that he had cast the ring away.
But on Christmas Eve, when the shop was shut and the house folks and servants were making ready for the festival in kitchen and parlour, the shopkeeper took him aside into his counting-house. If he liked his daughter, said he, there was no impediment that he could see. Let him take heart and woo her, for it hadn't escaped him how she was moping about all love-sick on his account. He himself, said the shopkeeper, was old, and would like to retire from business.
The good-looking shopman did not wait to be asked twice. He wooed straightway, and, before the Christmas cheer was on the table, he got yes for an answer.
Then years and years passed over them, and they thrived and prospered in house and home.
They had pretty and clever children. He rejoiced in his wife; nothing was good enough for her, and honour and ease were her portion, both at home and abroad.
But in the seventh year, when it was drawing towards Yule-tide, such a strange restlessness came over him. He wandered about all by himself, and could find peace nowhere.
His wife fretted and sorrowed over it. She knew not what it could be, and it seemed to her that he oddly avoided her. He would wander for hours together about the dark packhouse loft, among coffers and casks and barrels and sacks, and it was as though he didn't like folks to come thither when he was there.
Now it chanced on the day before Little Christmas Eve that one of the workpeople had to fetch something from the loft.
There stood the master, deep in thought, by one of the meal sacks, staring down on the ground before him.
"Don't you see the iron ring down in the floor there?" he asked.
But the man saw no ring.
"I see it there—the earth draws," he sighed heavily.
On Little Christmas Eve he was nowhere to be found, nor on the day after, though they searched for him high and low, and made inquiries about him everywhere amidst the Yule-tide bustle and merriment.
But late on Christmas Eve, while they were all running about in the utmost anxiety, not knowing whether they should lay the table or not, all at once in he came through the door.
He longed so much for both meat and drink, he said, and he was so happy and merry and jovial the whole evening through, that they all clean forgot the fright they had been in.
For a whole year afterwards he was chatty and sociable as before, and he made so much of his wife that it was quite absurd. He bore her in his hands, so to speak, and absolutely could not do enough for her.
But when it drew towards Yule-tide again, and the darkest time of the year, the same sort of restlessness came over him. It was as though they only saw his shadow amongst them, and he went moping about the packhouse loft again, and lingering there.
On Little Christmas Eve the same thing happened as before—he disappeared.
His wife and the people of the house went about in a terrible way, and were filled with astonishment and alarm.
And on Christmas Eve he suddenly stepped into the room again, and was merry and jovial, as he generally was. But when the lights had burnt out, and they all had gone to bed, his wife could hold her tongue no longer: she burst into tears, and begged him to tell her where he had been.
Then he thrust her roughly from him, and his eyes shot sparks, as if he were downright crazy. He implored her, for their mutual happiness' sake, never to ask him such a question again.
Time went on, and the same thing happened every year.
When the days grew dark, he moped about by himself, all gloomy and silent, and seemed bent upon hiding himself away from people; and on Little Christmas Eve he always disappeared, though nobody ever saw him go. And punctually on Christmas Eve, at the very moment when they were about to lay the table, he all at once came in at the door, happy and contented with them all.
But just before every autumn, towards the dark days, always earlier than the year before, this restlessness came over him, and he moped about with it, moodier, and shyer of people than ever.
His wife never questioned him; but a load of sorrow lay upon her, and it seemed to her to grow heavier and more crushing, since she seemed no longer able to take care of him, and he no longer seemed to belong to her.
Now one year, when it was again drawing nigh to Yule-tide, he began roaming about as usual, heavy and cast down; and the day before Little Christmas Eve he took his wife along with him into the packhouse loft.
"Do you see anything there by the meal sack?" he asked.
But she saw nothing.
Then he gripped her by the hand, and begged and implored her to remain, and go with him there at night. As his life was dear to him, said he, he would fain try and stay at home that day.
In the course of the night he tightly grasped her hand time after time, and sighed and groaned. She felt that he was holding on to her, and striving hard, and with all his might, against something.
When morning came, it was all over. He was happier and lighter of mood than she had seen him for a long, long time, and he remained at home.
On that Christmas Eve there was such a hauling and a-carrying upstairs from both shop and cellar, and the candles shone till all the window-panes sparkled again. It was the first real festival he had ever spent in his own house, he said, and he meant to make a regular banquet of it.
But when, as the custom was, the people of the house came in one by one, and drank the healths of their master and mistress, he grew paler and paler and whiter and whiter, as if his blood were being sucked out of him and drained away.
"The earth draws!" he shrieked, and there was a look of horror in his eyes.
Immediately afterwards he sat there—dead!
* * * * *
 Lille Jule-aften, i.e., the day before Christmas Eve (Jule-aften).
* * * * *
THE CORMORANTS OF ANDVAER
THE CORMORANTS OF ANDVAER
Outside Andvaer lies an island, the haunt of wild birds, which no man can land upon, be the sea never so quiet; the sea-swell girds it round about with sucking whirlpools and dashing breakers.
On fine summer days something sparkles there through the sea-foam like a large gold ring; and, time out of mind, folks have fancied there was a treasure there left by some pirates of old.
At sunset, sometimes, there looms forth from thence a vessel with a castle astern, and a glimpse is caught now and then of an old-fashioned galley. There it lies as if in a tempest, and carves its way along through heavy white rollers.
Along the rocks sit the cormorants in a long black row, lying in wait for dog-fish.
But there was a time when one knew the exact number of these birds. There was never more nor less of them than twelve, while upon a stone, out in the sea-mist, sat the thirteenth, but it was only visible when it rose and flew right over the island.
The only persons who lived near the Vaer at winter time, long after the fishing season was over, was a woman and a slip of a girl. Their business was to guard the scaffolding poles for drying fish against the birds of prey, who had such a villainous trick of hacking at the drying-ropes.
The young girl had thick coal-black hair, and a pair of eyes that peeped at folk so oddly. One might almost have said that she was like the cormorants outside there, and she had never seen much else all her life. Nobody knew who her father was.
Thus they lived till the girl had grown up.
It was found that, in the summer time, when the fishermen went out to the Vaer to fetch away the dried fish, that the young fellows began underbidding each other, so as to be selected for that special errand.
Some gave up their share of profits, and others their wages; and there was a general complaint in all the villages round about that on such occasions no end of betrothals were broken off.
But the cause of it all was the girl out yonder with the odd eyes.
For all her rough and ready ways, she had something about her, said those she chatted with, that there was no resisting. She turned the heads of all the young fellows; it seemed as if they couldn't live without her.
The first winter a lad wooed her who had both house and warehouse of his own.
"If you come again in the summer time, and give me the right gold ring I will be wedded by, something may come of it," said she.
And, sure enough, in the summer time the lad was there again.
He had a lot of fish to fetch away, and she might have had a gold ring as heavy and as bonnie as heart could wish for.
"The ring I must have lies beneath the wreckage, in the iron chest, over at the island yonder," said she; "that is, if you love me enough to dare fetch it."
But then the lad grew pale.
He saw the sea-bore rise and fall out there like a white wall of foam on the bright warm summer day, and on the island sat the cormorants sleeping in the sunshine.
"Dearly do I love thee," said he, "but such a quest as that would mean my burial, not my bridal."
The same instant the thirteenth cormorant rose from his stone in the misty foam, and flew right over the island.
Next winter the steersman of a yacht came a wooing. For two years he had gone about and hugged his misery for her sake, and he got the same answer.
"If you come again in the summer time, and give me the right gold ring I will be wedded with, something may come of it."
Out to the Vaer he came again on Midsummer Day.
But when he heard where the gold ring lay, he sat and wept the whole day till evening, when the sun began to dance north-westward into the sea.
Then the thirteenth cormorant arose, and flew right over the island.
There was nasty weather during the third winter.
There were manifold wrecks, and on the keel of a boat, which came driving ashore, hung an exhausted young lad by his knife-belt.
But they couldn't get the life back into him, roll and rub him about in the boat-house as they might.
Then the girl came in.
"'Tis my bridegroom!" said she.
And she laid him in her bosom, and sat with him the whole night through, and put warmth into his heart.
And when the morning came, his heart beat.
"Methought I lay betwixt the wings of a cormorant, and leaned my head against its downy breast," said he.
The lad was ruddy and handsome, with curly hair, and he couldn't take his eyes away from the girl.
He took work upon the Vaer.
But off he must needs be gadding and chatting with her, be it never so early and never so late.
So it fared with him as it had fared with the others.
It seemed to him that he could not live without her, and on the day when he was bound to depart, he wooed her.
"Thee I will not fool," said she. "Thou hast lain on my breast, and I would give my life to save thee from sorrow. Thou shalt have me if thou wilt place the betrothal ring upon my finger; but longer than the day lasts thou canst not keep me. And now I will wait, and long after thee with a horrible longing, till the summer comes."
On Midsummer Day the youth came thither in his boat all alone.
Then she told him of the ring that he must fetch for her from among the skerries.
"If thou hast taken me off the keel of a boat, thou mayest cast me forth yonder again," said the lad. "Live without thee I cannot."
But as he laid hold of the oars in order to row out, she stepped into the boat with him and sat in the stern. Wondrous fair was she!
It was beautiful summer weather, and there was a swell upon the sea: wave followed upon wave in long bright rollers.
The lad sat there, lost in the sight of her, and he rowed and rowed till the insucking breakers roared and thundered among the skerries; the ground-swell was strong, and the frothing foam spurted up as high as towers.
"If thy life is dear to thee, turn back now," said she.
"Thou art dearer to me than life itself," he made answer.
But just as it seemed to the lad as if the prow were going under, and the jaws of death were gaping wide before him, it grew all at once as still as a calm, and the boat could run ashore as if there was never a billow there.
On the island lay a rusty old ship's anchor half out of the sea.
"In the iron chest which lies beneath the anchor is my dowry," said she; "carry it up into thy boat, and put the ring that thou seest on my finger. With this thou dost make me thy bride. So now I am thine till the sun dances north-westwards into the sea."
It was a gold ring with a red stone in it, and he put it on her finger and kissed her.
In a cleft on the skerry was a patch of green grass. There they sat them down, and they were ministered to in wondrous wise, how he knew not nor cared to know, so great was his joy.
"Midsummer Day is beauteous," said she, "and I am young and thou art my bridegroom. And now we'll to our bridal bed."
So bonnie was she that he could not contain himself for love.
But when night drew nigh, and the sun began to dance out into the sea, she kissed him and shed tears.
"Beauteous is the summer day," said she, "and still more beauteous is the summer evening; but now the dusk cometh."
And all at once it seemed to him as if she were becoming older and older and fading right away.
When the sun went below the sea-margin there lay before him on the skerry some mouldering linen rags and nought else.
Calm was the sea, and in the clear Midsummer night there flew twelve cormorants out over the sea.
* * * * *
 A fishing-station, where fishermen assemble periodically.
* * * * *
ISAAC AND THE PARSON OF BROENOE
ISAAC AND THE PARSON OF BROENOE
In Helgeland there was once a fisherman called Isaac. One day when he was out halibut fishing he felt something heavy on the lines. He drew up, and, lo! there was a sea-boot.
"That was a rum 'un! " said he, and he sat there a long time looking at it.
It looked just as if it might be the boot of his brother who had gone down in the great storm last winter on his way home from fishing.
There was still something inside the boot too, but he durst not look to see what it was, nor did he exactly know what to do with the sea-boot either.
He didn't want to take it home and frighten his mother, nor did he quite fancy chucking it back into the sea again; so he made up his mind to go to the parson of Broenoe, and beg him to bury it in a Christian way.
"But I can't bury a sea-boot," quoth the parson.
The fellow scratched his head. "Na, na!" said he.
Then he wanted to know how much there ought to be of a human body before it could have the benefit of Christian burial.
"That I cannot exactly tell you," said the parson; "a tooth, or a finger, or hair clippings is not enough to read the burial service over. Anyhow, there ought to be so much remaining that one can see that a soul has been in it. But to read Holy Scripture over a toe or two in a sea-boot! Oh, no! that would never do!"
But Isaac watched his opportunity, and managed to get the sea-boot into the churchyard on the sly, all the same.
And home he went.
It seemed to him that he had done the best he could. It was better, after all, that something of his brother should lie so near God's house than that he should have heaved the boot back into the black sea again.
But, towards autumn, it so happened that, as he lay out among the skerries on the look-out for seals, and the ebb-tide drove masses of tangled seaweed towards him, he fished up a knife-belt and an empty sheath with his oar-blade.
He recognised them at once as his brother's.
The tarred wire covering of the sheath had been loosened and bleached by the sea; and he remembered quite well how, when his brother had sat and cobbled away at this sheath, he had chatted and argued with him about the leather for his belt which he had taken from an old horse which they had lately killed.
They had bought the buckle together over at the storekeeper's on the Saturday, and mother had sold bilberries, and capercailzies, and three pounds of wool. They had got a little tipsy, and had had such fun with the old fishwife at the headland, who had used a bast-mat for a sail.
So he took the belt away with him, and said nothing about it. It was no good giving pain to no purpose, thought he.
But the longer the winter lasted the more he bothered himself with odd notions about what the parson had said. And he knew not what he should do in case he came upon something else, such as another boot, or something that a squid, or a fish, or a crab, or a Greenland shark might have bitten off. He began to be really afraid of rowing out in the sea there among the skerries.
And yet, for all that, it was as though he were constantly being drawn thither by the hope of finding, perhaps, so much of the remains as might show the parson where the soul had been, and so move him to give them a Christian burial.
He took to walking about all by himself in a brown study.
And then, too, he had such nasty dreams.
His door flew open in the middle of the night and let in a cold sea-blast, and it seemed to him as if his brother were limping about the room, and yelling that he must have his foot again, the Draugs were pulling and twisting him about so.
For hours and hours he stood over his work without laying a hand to it, and blankly staring at the fifth wall.
At last he felt as if he were really going out of his wits, because of the great responsibility he had taken upon himself by burying the foot in the churchyard.
He didn't want to pitch it into the sea again, but it couldn't lie in the churchyard either.
It was borne in upon him so clearly that his brother could not be among the blessed, and he kept going about and thinking of all that might be lying and drifting and floating about among the skerries.
So he took it upon himself to dredge there, and lay out by the sea-shore with ropes and dredging gear. But all that he dredged up was sea-wrack, and weeds, and star-fish, and like rubbish.
One evening as he sat out there by the rocks trying his luck at fishing, and the line with the stone and all the hooks upon it shot down over the boat's side, the last of the hooks caught in one of his eyes, and right to the bottom went the eye.
There was no use dredging for that, and he could see to row home very well without it.
In the night he lay with a bandage over his eye, wakeful for pain, and he thought and thought till things looked as black as they could be to him. Was there ever any one in the world in such a hobble as he?
All at once such an odd thing happened.
He thought he was looking about him, deep down in the sea, and he saw the fishes flitting and snapping about among the sea-wrack and seaweeds round about the fishing line. They bit at the bait, and wriggled and tried to slip off, first a cod, and then a ling, and then a dog-fish. Last of all, a haddock came and stood still there, and chewed the water a little as if it were tasting before swallowing it.
And he saw there what he couldn't take his eyes off. It looked like the back of a man in leather clothes, with one sleeve caught beneath the grapnel of a Femboering.
Then a heavy white halibut came up and gulped down the hook, and it became pitch dark.
"You must let the big halibut slip off again when you pull up to-morrow," something said, "the hook tears my mouth so. 'Tis of no use searching except in the evening, when the tide in the sound is on the ebb."
Next day he went off, and took a piece of a tombstone from the churchyard to dredge the bottom with; and in the evening, when the tide had turned, he lay out in the sound again and searched.
Immediately he hauled up the grapnel of a Femboering, the hooks of which were clinging to a leather fisherman's jacket, with the remains of an arm in it.